‘Lungs’ is a compelling experimental project that attempts to break the barriers of medium (it was originally a radio play) and of a passive audience. Originally written by Duncan MacMillan, it follows a nameless couple played by Emma D’arcy and Leo Suter as they anxiously mull over their decision to bring a baby into the world. “It’s interesting because it is similar to the challenge of graduating, pondering over morals and money” says the passionate producer Rebecca Roughan.
In the middle of the play, the female protagonist irritably rebukes the male protagonist for only having a conversation he started. This seems to sum up ‘Lungs’. It is a series of conversations between the protagonists and with the audience, the aim being to get the audience to engage in a discussion the play seems to be steering them towards.
“You do a play and people come up and say how wonderful it is even when it wasn’t,” Roughan says justifying the importance of having a moderated discussion session at the end, to understand what the audience really takes away from it. That the play is free of cost is also part of the statement it makes. This means that the play isn’t seen a service for consumption, but a means of sparking a discussion.
At times ‘Lungs’ feels like a hysterical monologue, with a voice of reasoning trying hard to get through. The conversation spans over time and space, but interestingly signs of these are deliberately excluded. The actors cleverly play off each other, with inputs from the insightful director Howard Coase. They’re aware that cues of scene and mood depend heavily on their bodily manifestation. This is no simple feat to pull off because it entrusts the audience with the responsibility of how they make sense of the transitions.
Though the couple presented is a conventional one, their pre-natal pangs are far from conventional and have a strong moral tone. This makes one wonder if regular couples actually have painstakingly self-aware conversations or whether the couple functions as a synecdoche. We’ll only find out after the rest of cast plays their part- and by this I mean the audience. Audience reaction and discussion is crucial to make this experiment successful. Go make it happen!
‘Lungs’ is showing at Brasenose during the 3rd week on Wednesday at 7 pm and Friday/Saturday at 5 pm. It is free.